Tanya Stevenson's Racing UK Blog
|Saturday 1st February 2014|
You can’t solely blame the all-weather for poor attendances
I love it. The Sun put the patron saint of bad weather, St Medard, on their front page - perhaps his effigy should be placed at all the turf courses, certainly the ones across the country hoping to race over the next few days. Let’s hope he at least staves away the frost as if the temperatures plummet I doubt we’d thaw for months!
Wellies are once again at the ready for Saturday morning and a chat with Andrew Cooper, the clerk of the course at Sandown. Here’s hoping we are smiling with good news. I’m loathed to put up any selections at Sandown in case I put the mockers on its chances.
Instead I have picked a couple at Ffos Las. If there is a horse to take out of this season so far it must be Saphir Du Rheu, who has a realistic chance in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
He’ll attempt to add the Welsh Champion Hurdle to the quota of big handicaps already collected. The weight he must conceded is enormous, but the way he landed the Lanzarote Hurdle there’s a belief he is more than up to it.
As for the West Wales National, who better to win it than Mountainous, owned by Dai Walters who is the owner of the racecourse?
He travelled to the front so easily when winning the Welsh National at Chepstow and the cast was behind him reads exceptionally well.
Just in case the turf is wiped out, I’ve gone to Apostle at Lingfield, trained by the in-form David Simcock.
On to racing issues and much has been written about the drop in attendances in relation to 2003 and 2012.
Once again there has been a fixation towards apportioning the blame to the all-weather, an easy target. Perhaps a sensible pause is necessary before contemplating allowing more all-weather courses, the decisions to which are looming.
Racing is a very different business model to what it was ten years ago. It is a product that looks to drive more Levy turnover, and the easy way is to stage more races or more meetings, without focussing on the correct data.
There is a correlation between lack of attendance and small fields and odds-on favourites. Fifteen per cent of races last season had an odds-on favourite, so that’s one every meeting.
Some courses were blighted by them more than others.
It’s hard to encourage people out of their front doors if a race meeting has a card of just a handful of runners and this month I know there are the mitigating circumstances of persistent rain that makes for heavy ground.
The proximity of the Cheltenham Festival means you don’t want to blow out a horse’s engine, either.
However 46% of races have had fewer than eight runners. When you restrict that data to handicaps then 40 per cent of races have fewer than eight runners. When I split the data between handicaps on the all-weather and turf I found 35% of handicaps on the all-weather had fewer than eight runners and 46% on turf. The odds-on favourites remain around the 17% mark, up on the 2013 average.
As for a 16-runner handicaps there was only one in January! And on average three races per meeting had fewer than eight runners.
For those of you who send me messages and emails criticising my mentioning of the NFL in this column and on television, apologies.
Indulge and humour me please - you’d be surprised by the crossover of interest between the two sports. A vast number of trainers, jockeys, owners, presenters and hacks love it. It offers an outlet where everyone can be an expert. Stats are easily accessible, form stands up and it’s only played between September and February. I’ve been a lifelong supporter and investor and owe much to the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and plenty of individual players.
On the eve of Sunday’s Superbowl on a prolonged train journey which happens to pass by Wembley Stadium, my dreamy thoughts are diverted to eight month’s time. On September 28 my beloved Oakland Raiders will be the home team beneath the arch. Yes ‘Raider Nation’ lands on London, if you don’t know how monumental that is put it in Google!
I have consistently pinched myself at every mention of the match, plus I double-check the internet, it’s a reality which will prove a dream come true for all the family come the day. They host the Miami Dolphins. The result will be, to some extent, immaterial although a Raider win, however unlikely, would be nice.
For now though, I sit back hoping to admire their AFC West Division counterparts, the Denver Broncos in Sunday’s Superbowl. Can they be rewarded in their faith in a true sporting great, their quarterback Peyton Manning? He has made the “18” shirt iconic.
Over 20,000 turned up to watch Manning’s pre-season practice on his return from injury in August 2013 such is the draw of the man.
He has broken so many records in his sport just this year that Guinness may have to devote a whole chapter specifically for him.
To watch he is in that enviable comfort zone where no outcome appears to faze him. He reads the mobile human game of chess, which NFL can be compared to, with precise and astute accuracy which will prove Denver’s most potent weapon against Seattle.
Now up until the playoffs the only team you’d want to back would have been the Seattle Seahawks, but they spluttered through the knockout stages looking disorganised and far from the fearful unit we know they can be.
Both Seattle and Denver finished with 13 wins and 3 defeats in the regular season. And this Superbowl matches the team who scores the most points in Denver against the team who have let in the least points in the Seattle Seahawks.
It’s virtually a gimme that Marshawn Lynch will score an anytime touchdown, but knowing Denver’s scoring prowess Lynch will need more than one for Seattle.
The only advice is sit back and enjoy a master, that is Peyton Manning at work, there is much speculation this could well be his final hurrah!
Tanya’s Saturday tips:
2.05 Ffos Las: Saphir Du Rheu
2.40 Ffos Las: Mountainous
2.55 Lingfield: Apostle
Tanya's Saturday Pointers:
Six of the last seven favourites have won.
Paul Nicholls has won four times in the last eight years.
Since 1983 the only horse older than seven to win has been Tarxien aged nine in 2003.
The favourite has yet to win the Betfred Goals Galore Handicap Chase in the last seven attempts.
Seven of the last eight winners of Wetherby’s Towton Chase were no older than seven.
Seven of the last eight winners of the Towton Chase came from the first two in the betting.
Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs have teamed up for five winners from their last 12 runners
Evan Williams has had six winners from his last 14 National Hunt runners
Makethemostofnow has had nine runs at Ffos Las winning four, second once, third once
Emerald Wilderness has had 21 runs at Lingfield resulting in four wins, five seconds and three thirds
Only one favourite in the last ten years has won 3.30 Lingfield yet the biggest price of the winner has been 8-1
Mark Johnston has a formidable 50% strike rate at present, only four of his last 20 runners have finished out of the first three prior to Friday's racing.